Back in the summer of 2015, the Walter & Elise Haas Fund launched its first online grantseeker portal. Our aspirations were high: a collaborative workspace for grantseekers and grantmakers, anywhere access to grantee data, shared knowledge, searchable and shareable data, and the powerful insights newly made possible.

Seven years and one pandemic later, we’ve heard all that was fine, thank you, and that…

We need to #FixTheForm.

In late 2020, GrantAdvisor asked grantseekers to identify the challenges they encountered when completing grant applications. The feedback rolled in immediately. Many described plentiful challenges in unnecessarily burdensome grant applications. These hurdles cost nonprofits precious time, money, and resources. Ultimately, our well-meaning but flawed grant application forms weren’t living up to our high aspirations.

In response, GrantAdvisor—our real time feedback partner—launched a “scrappy grassroots international movement to identify (and fix!) the top pain points in grant applications.” They teamed up with the Technology Association of Grantmakers (we’re members) to #FixTheForm.

They started with grantseekers’ top complaint: they couldn’t see full grant forms before they began applying. That meant under-pressure grantseekers had to field unexpected questions. So #fixtheform is working to remove the element of surprise from the application process, by collecting and sharing 100 grant applications in 100 days.

We hear #fixtheform’s call to action. Our response is: “can do”.

It took us a mere 10 minutes to join the movement of those working to break down barriers to grant funding. We hope that simple action will save grantseekers far more than 10 minutes.

If you’re a grantmaker, it’s not too late to join the party. The deadline set by GrantAdvisor is July 23. Perhaps you’ll find, like us, that the making your grant application accessible proves beneficial. We discovered inconsistencies in our forms in the process, and were able to make corrections on the spot. Perhaps, like us, the exercise will remind you of how much more work we can do to minimize the burdens on grantseekers.

If you’re a grantseeker, please know we’re committed to making our grant application process easier. We respect and appreciate the time and resources grantseekers expend in sharing their stories with us.

Our aspirations are still high. The things we wanted to do in 2015 have resulted in improved systems. They also changed us; we now accept that the how of grantmaking is absolutely as important as the what and why.

In our education portfolio, we’re experimenting with integrating input from students, teachers, nonprofits, and grantees into each step of our grantmaking. We’d love to apply the same approach for a more collaborative, low-lift, re-useable grant application across our program areas. With respect for the varying levels of bandwidth people have available, we suggest three ways grantseekers and grantees can potentially inform our work:

  • Give us anonymous feedback at GrantAdvisor.We read it, and we find ourselves wanting more, whether it’s positive or negative.
  • If you’re in conversation with us about a letter of inquiry, a grant proposal, or a report, expect us to ask you for feedback on how well our application works—or doesn’t—for you.
  • If you see an invitation following your application asking what we can do to improve it, answer as candidly as possible. We know that’s hard to do when you’re asking for money, but we really do separate your honest critique from what your organization wants to achieve for and with Bay Area communities.

The Walter & Elise Haas Fund will continue to center grantseekers, grantees, and the nonprofit community in our efforts to make our grantmaking processes easier and more equitable. We know we have a lot of work left to do. We’re not just reviewing our applications, we’re also taking a critical look at what we really need to ask. As a first step in that process, we hope sharing our current application proves helpful.


Blog, Reflection


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